That guy over there is Timber Joey. He is -- quite literally -- the Portland Timbers' mascot. He stands in front of the supporters section at home games and slices off a piece of that huge log for every Portland goal. Timbers fans then toast him with organic fermented tofu beer made with non-flourinated water.
Seriously though, Portland is a really good team (and they provided the feel-good moment of the sports year so far).
The Timbers make just their second-ever visit to PPL Park tonight (0-0 draw in September, 2011) for a huge game against the Union (7:30 p.m. -- Comcast SportsNet). Philly's should-be-All-Star Jack McInerney returns to action after being released from U.S. National Team duty at the Gold Cup.
Plus, there's post-game fireworks. And Timber Joey won't be there. If I can't bring a bottle of water into PPL, I'm pretty sure he can't bring that chainsaw.
Here's the funny part about tonight's game: Everyone loves to point at the Timbers as one of the top teams in the league -- which they are. But should the Union win tonight, they would have 33 points -- the same as Portland.
With McInerney back in the fold, we should see him start again up top with Conor Casey, pushing Sebastien Le Toux back into more of the wide role he has excelled in this season. With Casey red-hot (five goals in six games), McInerney well-rested yet in shape, and Le Toux rolling along, it's not the offense I'm worried about tonight (not something I ever thought I'd say about the Union), despite Portland's stout defense (0.95 goals allowed per game -- second best in MLS).
The Union defense will have plenty to contend with, however. Until a recent loss to Columbus, Portland had run off 15 straight games without a loss, and have more than a few creative players up front who will challenge the Union backline. If you've never seen Darlington Nagbe play (and unless you stay up late and watch MLS on TV, you haven't), you should be in for a treat. He makes plenty of mistakes, but most are caused when a creative piece of skill doesn't quite go as planned.
Then he scores goals like this one in 2011.
[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/2naoSiNRQ1w service=youtube width=590 height=332]
In all reality, a home draw against a team like this wouldn't be too devastating. But after recently dropping four points against Dallas and Salt Lake while settling for draws instead of seizing victory, the Union can't afford to give away points at home.
Philadelphia Union (8-6-6, 30 points) vs. Portland Timbers (8-2-9, 33 points) -- 7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet
Prediction Sure To Be Way Off:
It's a good weekend and I only have a few days of work left before vacation. I'm optimistic.
Union 2, Timbers 1.